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Mo Ibrahim talks telecoms, investing in Africa, and promoting good governance and leadership for CNBC’s The Brave Ones

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

Mo is the first business leader featured in CNBC’s third season of The Brave Ones documentary series.

Aliko Dangote, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Hailemariam Desalegn, Mary Robinson, Hosh Ibrahim and Bono are some of the guest speakers in the episode, which explores Mo’s trajectory from engineer at BT in the UK to promoting good governance and leadership in Africa with the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

He recalls how he decided to focus on a challenge that no one else was looking at when setting up the Foundation – the issue of governance and leadership in Africa:

Why do African people need aid in the first place? Africa should be rich. Because we are a very rich continent. So why are we poor? The answer was clearly the way we run our countries.

He also explores the challenges he faced while building Celtel and the mobile networks that ended up connecting a third of the population in Africa. First, the lack of infrastructure meant that a whole new mobility layer needed to be created:

We had to build all the infrastructure ourselves. I had to put in the microwave [technology], the fiber myself, to connect the powers to the exchanges. Second, banks were not willing to invest in the company, which had to be built using equity.

That didn’t discourage him to invest in a continent which he recognised as having a huge potential:

I’m an African. I’m not afraid of Africa. I believe there’s a big gap between perception and the reality of Africa. Whenever there’s a big gap between perception and reality, there’s a wonderful business opportunity.

Watch the episode in full below.

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The Brave Ones is a documentary series from American business news channel CNBC which explores the rise of some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs through one-on-one interviews.